The 2008-2009 Men's Tennis Team (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
With no seniors and only one returning upperclassman, the 2008-2009 men’s tennis team is excited to build on last season. The Cougars’ captain, junior Cassidy Mears, and a solid group of sophomores will be joined by three new freshmen in their quest to improve conference play and secure a championship at the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
“Winning the conference tournament will be a real challenge because there are so many good teams,” head coach Brad Pearce said. “But despite the challenge, it is something we’re always striving for.”
The team finished last season ranked No. 71 nationally and made it to the semifinals of the conference championship after upsetting UNLV. The Cougars had a winning year, with a 16-12 overall record.
“Throughout the fall season, we’ve had some ups and downs,” Pearce said. “I was encouraged not only by individual performances but also by team performances.”
Some of those ups include sophomores Thomas Shubert and Evan Urbina capturing the singles title at the Utah Tennis Fall Classic and Utah Intercollegiate Tournament respectively. The Cougars also had a strong showing at the So Cal Intercollegiate Tournament, defeating top-ranked players from strong programs such as UCLA, USC and Pepperdine.
“I am confident in our team because of the way we finished the fall season at the So Cal tournament,” Pearce said. “I’m hoping that wasn’t the end but the beginning.”
This year’s squad will face many tough opponents throughout the season, including No. 5 UCLA, No. 21 Stanford and No. 36 Boise State. Conference play will also test BYU with defending MWC champion TCU and in-state rival Utah as well as New Mexico and UNLV, who will be returning veteran players to contend in the Mountain West.
The Cougars lost only one senior from last year’s team and Mears, who was a co-captain in 2007-2008, will give more direction to the young team this season.
“Cassidy is doing a terrific job of leadership and being a good conduit between the coaching staff and players,” Pearce said. “We’re counting on his continued leadership throughout the season.”
Pearce also said he has been impressed by the play of BYU’s three freshmen. The new players showed their mental toughness this fall, progressing in their respective draws and bouncing back from difficult losses. With the mixture of experience and fresh talent, Pearce expects good things from the team this season.
“We hope everybody will continue to improve and be ready for January,” Pearce said. “All of the guys feel that we have potential to have a good season.”
Tennis fans will have their first chance to see the Cougars in action on Jan. 16 at home against Utah State and Weber State.